10 Years, 10 Days, $10K

YNPN's 10 year anniversary logoFrom the Mar-Apr 2015 Grassroots Fundraising Journal

By Kiara Boone, Autumn Hubbard & Trish Tchume

Staff and board of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network set out to mark their 10-year anniversary by raising $10,000. Read how they adjusted their plans right before launching their campaign and more than doubled their goal.

This article shares the process and lessons learned from the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network’s (YNPN) first targeted online giving campaign centered around the organization’s tenth anniversary. YNPN is an organization that strengthens the social sector by activating emerging leaders and connecting them with resources, people and ideas. To celebrate our first decade as a network and preparing for the decade to come, we launched 10 Years, 10 Days, $10K—a sprint peer-to-peer fundraising campaign designed to raise money and support in a condensed and specific amount of time.

We had a couple of goals for the campaign: First, we wanted to celebrate a milestone birthday. Having a genuine milestone—a 10-year anniversary—gave people a strong reason to pay attention. We wanted to make sure that people were aware of what we had accomplished in the last 10 years and how we planned to continue to build on that success for the next decade. 

Second, we were specifically raising money for the infrastructure that would power the next decade of our work. Over the last three years, the number of YNPN chapters has grown by 60 percent! It was clear that YNPN needed to make a big investment in the people, data systems and resources that would take our work to the next level—so we launched the campaign. 

Staff and Board Participation

To succeed with our strategy, participation from the national board and staff was critical in designing and monitoring the messaging, online tools and momentum. The key roles were as follows: 

  • We identified two campaign committee chairs from our board fundraising committee to hold us accountable for actually doing the campaign this year by helping to set the strategic vision for the campaign, drafting a work plan, and engaging the board around giving and outreach.
  • The national director’s primary role was to advise the overall strategy, identify potential donors and donor groups, and make major asks.
  • The director of communications and network engagement set the outreach strategy, developed all of the content for social media, managed the crowdfunding site, and coordinated all of the acknowledgements.

Our Fundraising History

Historically, YNPN National has received almost 100 percent of its financial support from foundations through grants or sponsorships. The national director has been primarily responsible for developing and managing all of these grant relationships.

Prior to 2013, the national board played only a minor role in either institutional fundraising or individual donor cultivation. So, building the board’s confidence and capacity to fundraise became a significant focus of 2013 to great success. With the help of one-on-one board member coaching from our fundraising chair, individual goal setting, and sharing of board strategies,  board member fundraising increased over 150 percent in 2013.

Creating a Fundraising Strategy

After the success of individual appeals made by YNPN National’s board to family and friends in 2013, the board’s fundraising committee launched a wider-reaching targeted individual/alumni giving campaign. The committee members hoped to capitalize on YNPN National’s tenth anniversary year by engaging with YNPN alumni. 

Recognizing that we had never embarked on a coordinated individual giving campaign before, the committee approached the campaign primarily as an opportunity to learn best practices and to lay the foundation for a new YNPN National fundraising strategy, rather than as a core source of funding for that budget year. 

We decided that the campaign had to reiterate the power of YNPN National. Here are a few examples of the messaging we used:  One in five members has been part of more than one YNPN chapter. Wherever you are, so is YNPN

  • The power of network: One in five members has been part of more than one YNPN chapter. Wherever you are, so is YNPN. 
  • 10 years ago when YNPN National started, conversations about leadership were focused on building a pipeline to replace the predicted large number of people who were eligible for retirement. Through years of national level advocacy alongside grassroots programming, YNPN has played a critical role in shifting the conversation towards leveraging and supporting the talent that exists within the sector right now.

In June and July of 2014, the campaign chairs outlined four stages for the campaign:

4 phases of #ynpn

Designing the Campaign…then Shifting Gears

The original campaign’s primary objective was to serve as a pilot initiative to help YNPN National better assess the organization’s fundraising and development capabilities. YNPN leadership also recognized the campaign as a tool to engage with YNPN alumni and current chapter leaders. In addition to the support from the board, YNPN wanted to engage network “champions” to promote the fundraising goals. 

In August 2014, after two months of campaign planning, our national director attended GIFT’s 5th Money for Our Movements conference. The seminar on “Moving Towards an Integrated Fundraising Culture,” run by the Progressive Technology Project (PTP), exposed her to the concept of sprint campaigns—a fundraising campaign with a limited duration and a specific fundraising target. This integrated approach to fundraising is driven by the idea that fundraising is organizing.

Our national director emailed us from the conference saying, “Okay, I know this isn’t what we were planning, but hear me out…” When the rest of us on the planning committee heard the idea of doing a shorter, sprint campaign that would tie the 10 year anniversary to raising $10,000 in 10 days, we thought it was a great idea. We knew it would mean a lot more work up front, but we loved how a sprint campaign could energize people. After considering the advantages and significant challenges of altering the campaign to operate as a sprint campaign, the board agreed that it presented an opportunity for YNPN to engage in an exciting and thoughtful learning process. So the 10 Years, 10 Days, $10K Campaign was born!

Sprint campaigns are ideal for crowdfunding platforms and work best when they run for a set, concise period of time. Setting a deadline creates a sense of urgency and purpose. The campaigns target a specific audience related to the goal of the fundraising efforts. The idea is to engage a group whose interests align with the campaign purpose and goals.

We used Fundly to host the campaign and track the fundraising progress. For the duration of the 10-day campaign, we sent daily emails using MailChimp that were embedded with YouTube videos, complemented by Facebook and Twitter posts encouraging friends and followers to support the campaign. The campaign also identified “champions” (what we called members of the fundraising team), former national board members, previous chapter leaders, YNPN friends, and social sector leaders  to serve as ambassadors for the campaign. As ambassadors, these individuals agreed to use their social and political capital to reach out to their networks for donations. Champions were asked to play an active role in telling their stories via YouTube to encourage people to donate. 

A Change In Plans, #ynpn10

The Results

The campaign was a huge success financially. By the end of the campaign, YNPN raised $23,429 ($8,564 online and $14,865 offline), more than twice the initial goal. Here are some notable figures: 

  • Our $10K goal was reached by day four of the campaign.
  • The largest donation was $6,000 from a YNPN National board alumnus.
  • The matching grant of $2,500 from a YNPN Chapter founder and leader was achieved within 24 hours.
  • YNPN Alumni (national and local chapter) donated a total of $9,973.
  • 76 percent of donors were new financial supporters. 
  • 22 local chapters and chapter leaders donated. 

While many of our donors were millennials, we were proud of the age diversity among those who supported the campaign. In addition to the members and chapter leaders who supported the campaign (who fall solidly in the millennial age bracket), YNPN alumni (more of the Gen X crowd) and the parents and family members of YNPN members also supported the campaign. It was really great to see people of all generations recognizing the value of supporting emerging leaders.

We did notice, however, that our younger supporters were more likely to share that they supported our campaign and encourage others to support the campaign via social media. We suspected that might be the case, which is why it was important to choose a platform that made social sharing easy and accessible. Fundly was a dream to work with and looked a lot like Kickstarter, something we thought would be familiar and accessible to a lot of donors, particularly millennials.

Lessons Learned

Lessons for sprint, #ynpn10

Here are some of the lessons learned from the campaign:

  • A short and focused time frame can more easily move people to action and harness the energy of the board and staff. 
  • The September timing worked well because it was before the end-of-year mad dash and Giving Tuesday donation glut.
  • Matching gifts can attract donors, but not always. YNPN was thrilled when the first matching grant of $2,500 by an individual donor was achieved within 24 hours. People acted quickly to help secure the total amount of funds. However, the Chapter Leader Match sponsored by YNPN NYC did not generate the level of support we anticipated. In the future, it might be worthwhile to connect donating alumni from local chapters with current chapter leaders to encourage giving.
  • Actively engaged board members made a huge difference in the planning and implementation of the campaign. Weekly planning and strategy meetings ensured that the team remained in constant communication. 
  • Campaign outreach was successful due to the early planning of content for the correspondence and videos. In the future, we would dedicate additional resources to ensure high quality videos. 
  • We also learned that things don’t always go as you plan—and we should plan for that! For example, we thought for several weeks that a big celebrity (a household name) was going to be able to record a video for our campaign through a personal connection we had. It was getting down to the wire in terms of planning out the content for all 10 days, and whether or not we had this celebrity’s video was going to affect the order of the entire content slate. So we ended up planning two content slates: one with the celebrity and one without. The celebrity connection fell through, but our content and the campaign still went so smoothly because of that advance planning. It was a great lesson in the importance of doing all of the work up front and preparing for a variety of scenarios.


Engaging the Funders of Tomorrow

In the end, our success was the result of a number of factors and the work of so many people. Our national reach greatly helped us. We are fortunate (for many reasons) to have a fantastic network of chapters and chapter leaders who believe in the value of what YNPN does because they experience it every day. Nearly 20 percent of our donations were from chapter leaders, and we had at least one person donate from 22 of our 40 chapters. Several of our chapters donated to the campaign as organizations as well.

Even though we’re relatively young, we have served tens of thousands of young nonprofit professionals, and many of those alumni still continue to support YNPN even as they have “outgrown” the network. More than 50 percent of our original $10,000 goal was raised from alumni of our national board. Alumni engagement, for us, is critical not only for financial reasons, but because the young nonprofit professionals of today are the executive directors, board chairs and funders of tomorrow. One of our hopes is that as members move on from our network and the designation of “young nonprofit professional,” they don’t lose sight of the importance of developing the emerging leaders they work with. A campaign like this can be a reminder of the benefits they gained from the network and the great experience they had as a YNPN member and leader. 

Kiara Boone, Autumn Hubbard and Trish Tchume are the development coordinator, communications coordinator and national director of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network.